Managing Obesity in Childhood & Adolescence – The Evidence

People rely on numerous sources of information to inform decisions in health and health services, including clinical experience, respected colleagues, or data from the ‘latest and greatest’ randomized controlled trial.

However, in the world of systematic reviews (SRs) and meta analyses (MAs) (consistent with being at the top of the hierarchy of evidence), the most trusted source is Cochrane, a global, independent network of researchers, clinicians, patients, and others interested in health. Cochrane reviews include “…gathering and summarizing the best evidence from research to hep you make informed choices about treatment.” In relation to SRs and MAs done by non-Cochrane affiliated researchers, they have a reputation for being more conservative and dispassionate, which can enhance objectivity and minimize bias, both real and perceived.

Not too long ago, there were almost as many reviews as there were original studies on managing pediatric obesity. Not anymore, a point that is highlighted in the most recent Cochrane reviews of managing obesity in children (6 to 11 year olds) and adolescents (12 to 17 year olds); these two reports included data from ~15,000 boys and girls from numerous countries around the world. In general, these reviews reinforced what we know – over the short-term, children and adolescents with obesity (1) can lose a modest amount of weight through interventions focused on diet, physical activity, and behaviour change, (2) experience very few (if any) adverse consequences related to treatment, and (3) future research is needed to determine the best ways to help maintain healthy lifestyle and behavioral changes over the long-term.


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